Scotland v Argentina: Townsend looks to novices on bench for impact

Murphy Walker, Glen Young, Andy Christie and Cam Redpath will relish opportunity to improve Scotland's fortunes during final quarter

Murphy Walker made his Scotland debut against Fiji a fortnight ago. Image: © Craig Watson -
Murphy Walker made his Scotland debut against Fiji a fortnight ago. Image: © Craig Watson -

GREGOR TOWNSEND made it clear that he didn’t want dragged into the conversation. He’s happy to leave the crass public denigration of rugby’s officiating and often unfathomable disciplinary processes to Rassie Erasmus. But there was a definite sense of Francis Urquhart – “you might very well think that but I couldn’t possibly comment” – about his demeanour when the issue of the make-up of the disciplinary panel which suspended Richie Gray for three weeks on Wednesday was discussed during today’s team announcement.

Gray was slapped with a three-match ban on Wednesday having been cited after last weekend’s loss to New Zealand for foul play at a ruck or a maul, and it is understood that the Scottish camp are unhappy that the panel which considered his case contained an Argentinean in the shape of Juan-Pablo Spirandelli.

The logic seems to be that as a former international referee, Spirandelli’s neutrality is beyond question, but the fact that three other disciplinary hearings took place on the same day as Gray’s involving Australian, South African, English and French arbiters [as well as Scotland’s very own Frank Hadden] means that there was absolutely no need for Six Nations to chose an individual from the country Scotland play this weekend for this particular task. Fair or not, Spirandelli has been put in an invidious position.

Scotland v Argentina: Gregor Townsend opts for continuity in final Autumn Test

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Scotland have opted not to launch an appeal against the decision, essentially because the continued uncertainty would disrupt the team’s preparation for tomorrow’s match, and the chances of a volte face are slim to none.

“We all expected him to get off, but we are not the judge in this,” said Townsend. “Accidents happen at ruck clear-outs. We believed it was an accident, but the panel decided it was a red card.

“The hearing lasted four and a half hours so they must have deliberated long and hard. I know Richie had no intent in his actions, he’s never been red-carded or cited in his career.

“It’s a blow for him and it’s a blow for us because he has been playing so well. But it’s an opportunity for his brother, Jonny, to come in.

“Jonny is fired up and feels he should have been starting this Autumn like lots of guys when not selected. There was a real edge about his game when he came on last week.”

Townsend has made only one other – also enforced – change to his starting fifteen from the side he sent out against New Zealand last weekend, with Jack Dempsey set to make his first start in a Scotland jersey in place of the injured Hamish Watson.

With a six-day turnaround, there was inevitably a temptation to mix selection up some more to ensure the players taking part in this match are both physically and mentally fresh, but Townsend and his coaching team ultimately decided that continuity is key this week as the team tries to build on their improved performance – although disappointing result – against the All Blacks last weekend.

“We had a couple of selection meetings,” he explained. “One on Monday evening, another on Tuesday morning, and we didn’t announce the team to our players until Tuesday afternoon.

“We debated every position, and we also recognised that when you go through a campaign and there is a group of players who have not played, it is not good for them and it is not good for the squad because you want to give everyone a chance to push for selection for the Six Nations or the World Cup. But we kept coming back to the team played well last week and cohesion is important.”


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There are six changes to the bench, with Townsend backing a group of international novices to help the team get past their habit of falling out of games in the final 20 minutes.

“We believe in them, and we believe that their energy will be really important,” he said. “People like Andy Christie (three replacement caps), Murphy Walker (one cap as a replacement) and Cam Redpath (three caps) are guys who want to get on ball and take the game to the opposition. Glen Young (two replacement caps) also adds real punch and pace.”

Townsend acknowledged that the need to get Walker, who is primarily a tight-head but can also play an the loose-head, some more time in the saddle needs to be a particular priority as the build-up up to next year’s World Cup gather pace.

“He’s impressed us at training, and he’s gone up against both Argentinian loose-heads playing against Treviso, so we believe this is a good game for another opportunity,” said the coach. “We know we have to develop more tight-heads.

“He’s only started one first class game [for Glasgow Warriors against Benetton] this season. If he’s going to be an option for us at the World Cup, which he could or should be, he’s got a strong case because he can cover loose and tight-head, and we’ll  have to make a decision about taking five props.

We want to see him play more rugby. He’ll get a chance this week and I’m hoping that Glasgow will give him more opportunities. His time here should help that given he’s played Test rugby against Fiji and again this weekend.

“I think we can do a better job at bringing through Scottish props and have more patience with their development. It is not a position that at 20 or 21 years old you make a decision on whether or not they are going to make it – you have to learn your trade there.

“Of course it is a worry [that so few Scottish created props are establishing themselves ion the p[ro game with Edinburgh of Glasgow Warriors], because you can’t shift someone from the second-row to prop. You might have a lack of depth at centre or in the back-row and you can move people into it, but at prop if you have a lack of depth and suddenly two or three injuries then you’ll be under real pressure.”

Scotland have led their opponents with 20 minutes to go in their last three defeats – against Argentina during the summer then against Australia and New Zealand this Autumn – before running out of steam.

“It’s been part of our review and improvement process,” Townsend added. “The opportunities we didn’t take in that 50-minute period [when we were on top against New Zealand] are probably more relevant to us not winning the game than the last 15 minutes.

“In Test rugby now, it’s so competitive between every team in the top 10 in the world that if you slip off at any period including the last 10-minutes it will come back to bite you, and if you don’t take your opportunities then it is going to be a much tougher game to win.”

Scotland v Argentina: Gregor Townsend opts for continuity in final Autumn Test

About David Barnes 3192 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. I could not agree more George and I have been banging on about it for years. Dobson and his stooges at Murrayfield including Townsend have destroyed the club game and grass roots rugby. All they have done is rip off the supporters with ridiculous ticket prices, sold stakes off in the 6 nations, sold out what used to be the Celtic league and all they have done with the money raised has been to pay themselves huge salaries and import players from all over the world. Created a super 6 to bring in as many saffers, kiwis etc and use it to use up residency time and Scottish players are sitting on the bench or even more appalling walking away from the game. We are drawing lots of young children into the game but many give up as youth rugby is a disjointed mess. The game itself is like watching paint dry and the proud blue of Scotland is now a shirt of convenience. The game I played from the age of 9 and then coached and loved is dead. Murrayfield is packed with people who just have a day out and who love the imported players like Schoeman and Duwan both of him played for South Africa in the junior world cup against Scotland. Duwan is paid top dollar by Edinburgh gets capped and then says no to a new contract and goes off the Worcester. He should not have been picked for Scotland again as he put two fingers up to Scottish rugby and then he comes back and is welcomed with open arms.

  2. I’m amazed Townsend discusses consistency….and how important it is!!??
    His record of selections with the exception of the Argentina game are totally inconsistent…

  3. Can someone tell me why the barrett try on Sunday (3rd one) was allowed to stand as it was obvious that the second lock had attached himself to barret before he picked up the ball to plunge over – thought that pre binding was a penalty decision – yet the referee who was stood not 4 yards from the incident gave nothing but the penalty. Watch the highlights of the match and you will see what I mean.

    • Frank Murphy
      he was ok up yo the last quarter. Then like players he tires and misses/ignores lots of stuff, like the NZ constant off feet sealing off had he penalised a couple of those as he would have first half, we relieve the pressure and win

      • Not sure we get the best decisions from refs, aclassic example was the WC quarter final game 2015 against Australia. At the end Hogg is late tackled but no penalty and then a penalty was incorrectly given against Scotland. 2 wrong decisions in a few seconds. ABs always get away with so much.

  4. George couldn’t agree more, just read a very good interview with David Campese on line saying how they have turned the game he loved into Rugby League.

  5. I was at the game and watching it back on the Tv I still didn’t notice the Gray incident. The Scotland Team thought that it wasn’t a red card. Watching the France Boks match however there were 2 red cards. Pieter Steph du Toit just about took a Frenchman’s head off, made worse as Danty couldn’t defend himself. Du Toit got 6 weeks like Ritchie but reduced to 3 with a further reduction of 1 week if he attends a coaching course. Looking at the incident I don’t think it could have been worse. Yet it’s only considered an entry level offense 😱😱. I would like to know what a top level offence is, and I can’t think there are any reasons to mitigate to 3. Dupont got 8 weeks for colliding with a player in the air, he didn’t tackle him but was following the ball and Kolbe basically landed on him. Dupont no intent 8 weeks, Du Toit thuggery 6 weeks. The disciplinary committee and process is a joke. Remember a couple of seasons back O’Mahoney lines up and smashes a Welshman and he gets a shorter punishment than Zander Fagerson for hitting a ruck and sliding up into another Welshman’s head with about a third of the force of O’Mahoney, and the punishment is increased because he didn’t plead guilty. There is no consistency and no equivalence. Needs a root and branch overhaul

    • I posted this elsewhere. What made the Du Toit/Du Pont comparison worse is Du Pont admitted foul play worthy of a red card, Du Toit did not admit foul play

      Disc process is way beyond not fit for purpose. As is WR, whi have chickened out of banning Erasmus properly (2wks) for his twitter stuff – Barnes has now had death threats

  6. Not contesting either the ‘probability’ finding nor the crass selection of an Argentinian on the panel 4 days prior to a fixture against that Country is as myopic as some match officials. There would have been no significant disruption, why? Because you don’t expect to win any argument against these self selected and frequently inappropriate panels. Letting them think they can continue their little cosy Cartel is a mistake.
    Any observation of the IRB/World Rugby can’t fail to have noticed a trend to introduce changes to the Laws that on reflection have been instrumental in the problems the game has today.
    I’m sure there will be at least one person that can tell me the difference of watching week in week out players in some cases recklessly diving in at speed to ‘Clear out’ the opposition but a Citing Commissioner finding fault on a probable basis, probable mind you, with Ritchie Gray.
    I accept that it would be too tedious but an aspiring student could well make a name for themselves with a thesis going back to the 70’s and documenting all the misconceived changes to the Laws that along with professionalism has given us almost by default arguments after every fixture about interpretations of Laws or Match officials with myopia and Citing Commissioners seemingly doing a ‘Littlewoods’ permutation exercise in fault finding.
    Recall the problems of Union in Australia loosing out to League in the 80’s[?] that brought about changes to scrums, recall the sage words of Bill McLaren when he bemoaned the tactic of stringing across the field a-la League reducing the available space leading to ‘Tennis’ Rugby.
    World Rugby finds itself in a morass of litigious actions because of many factors, many of which are driven not for the game that has morphed out of all proportion to a game for all shapes and sizes into one for the somewhat disparaging description of ‘Gym Monkey’s’ but for ‘a greater audience’ of armchair enthusiasts.
    Is there anyone out there that played rugby that has noticed a significant increase in participation at his Club? Is there anyone out there that has observed World Rugby pandering to Media, the likes of URC eulogising Qatar as a stop over for exhibition Matches, efforts to make more revenue for World Rugby and the Unions: damn all about the Grassroots in comparison, nothing that suggests anything other than if it doesn’t put money in the coffers to keep the Suits and Myopic Commissioners in freebies, its an irrelevance.
    Rant over, unfortunately no doubt only for the moment.

      • Thank you Robert, I’m afraid it’s watching the game I enjoyed playing for over 30 years in many aspects going down the drain and it makes me so angry.

    • still don’t think you have the Richie Gray not right but fair play that’s a great rant with a lot to commend it
      The ability of WR to amend laws, then amend them again to try to correct the errors of the first change – it grows like topsy – instead of just applying the laws as writ originally is beyond belief

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